Not many actors can say that they share a role with Tom Cruise.
But Matt Nolan will have the special honor of starring as Stacee Jaxx in the national tour of "Rock of Ages" at the same time that Cruise brings the debauched rock star to life in the musical's big screen adaptation (to be released June 1).
"It'll be really special to see how people respond," Nolan said by phone during a tour stop in Fort Myers, Fla. "I'm excited. I mean, Tom Cruise is playing my part. It's definitely cool, it's going to be different but the story is still the story and the message of fun and that time period is still going to come through."
Matt Nolan stars as rocker Stacee Jaxx in the national touring production of “Rock of Ages.”
The 27-year-old can't resist a sly crack at Cruise, though.
"It's a little different because he's like, a midget, and I'm 6-foot-3," he said with a laugh.
The "Rock of Ages" tour, which started in September, will come to Eisenhower Auditorium on the Penn State University Park campus at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The show's Penn State appearance came about because of a convenient window of opportunity, said Laura Sullivan, director of marketing at Eisenhower.
"They were routing the show in this direction and we had an open date and we went to York to check out the quality of the show," Sullivan said. "Four of us went and we thought it was fun and had a great time."
She expects those who go to the show will feel the same way - particularly those who grew up in the 1980s.
"I think the music is what is drawing people first - it's songs that they remember," Sullivan said. "This is just kind of a total enjoyment [show]."
Having a great time is what "Rock of Ages" is all about, Nolan said.
The show is a flashback to the power ballad and hair band era of rock 'n' roll. Set in 1987 on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, the story follows Drew, an aspiring rocker, and Sherrie, an aspiring actress, both of whom moved to L.A. to find their fortunes. The pair meet and develop a relationship as employees at a failing Hollywood club, until Drew accidentally pushes Sherrie away.
When Jaxx and his soon-to-breakup band, Arsenal, come to the club to perform, Drew impresses as the opening act and gets a record contract. Meanwhile, Sherrie becomes fascinated with Stacee and has a bathroom rendezvous with the star, who gets her fired immediately afterward.
The rest of the musical finds Drew trying to navigate the music business, Sherrie trying to dig her way out of the gutter as an exotic dancer and Stacee finding that going solo is a
Much of the story is told not through dialogue, but through the lyrics of a long list of 1980s hits from bands like Journey, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Styx.
"For instance, my character sings 'Dead or Alive' and as much as it's the classic Bon Jovi song, it's also about what my character is going through," Nolan said, noting that sometimes different songs are combined into a medley of sorts to fit the story situation.
"There's one song that starts off with Sherrie singing 'More Than Words,' then it goes to 'I'm the One Who Wants to Be With You,' then it goes into the song 'Heaven.' It's kinda cool the way it all fits together."
The storytelling is what sets 'Rock of Ages' apart, he said.
"It's a hugely funny comedy and in my opinion one of the most unique stories you'll ever see," Nolan said.
And he isn't just saying that because he's in the show now.
"As much as I love being in the show, I'm also a huge fan OF the show," he said. "I can remember seeing it for the first time on Broadway just after it opened. I was hooked instantly. I saw it four or five times on Broadway.
"It's one of those shows that, when a friend comes into town, you take him to that because you know they'll love it."
Nolan, 27, has also been in the national tours of 'Grease' and 'Hairspray,' but is perhaps best known for being one of the finalists in the 2007 reality TV competition "You're the One That I Want!" which looked to cast the leads in a new Broadway production of "Grease."
But Stacee Jaxx has proven to be the most entertaining role of his young career.
"He's a conglomeration of all the over-the-top characters from that time period," Nolan said, mentioning such rock frontmen as David Lee Roth and Jon Bon Jovi. "What's so fun about playing him is every time you get to play a character like that, you get to explore and do something different every night."
It should certainly be a "different" sort of production for Eisenhower Auditorium, as it may involve an audience in costume.
"A lot of people are telling us that they're going to be dressed up in '80s gear, so we're encouraging that," Sullivan said. "It'll definitely be more of a party atmosphere."
That's the kind of crowd "Rock of Ages" has gotten used to, Nolan said.
"We've had some crazy audiences," he said. "We were in Schenectady, N.Y., and the people in the audience decided to come up on stage and you're not supposed to do that."
"I don't advise people to do that," he added with a laugh.
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.